RALEIGH, N.C. — From consumer protection to the crime lab, the Attorney General serves as North Carolina's top lawman. In 12 days, voters will choose who fills that post.
Democrat Roy Cooper wants another four years on the job, while Republican Raleigh attorney Joe Knott hopes to unseat the veteran politician.
"I know what it is to be a lawyer," Knott said . "I know what it is to be in a courtroom. We need an attorney general who's actually an attorney, not a politician."
On his Web site, the political newcomer and Sunday school teacher, writes "the law is a gift from God." Instead of detailed law enforcement plans he talks philosophically about freedom and decency.
"If truth and justice are the standard, everyone knows what the rules are," Knott said.
Cooper says that his record during his term reflects fighting crime and helping residents.
"I think we've had great successes in fighting crime and protecting consumers and preserving the environment," Cooper said.
Cooper, who previously served in private practice and the state legislature, cites increasing the number of DNA analysts in the State Bureau of Investigation crime lab.
During his term as attorney general he also pushed tougher laws for methamphetamine lab offenders, a crackdown on telemarketers, and cleaner smokestack legislation.
As for his opponent, Cooper questions why Knott suddenly backed out of their only planned debate.
"I'm just mystified as to why he didn't want to do it," Cooper said.
Knott's campaign complained the governor's debate would have overshadowed the attorney general candidate's forum, in similar ways that politics can cloud real issues.
"You need an attorney general who's concerned about that office and not running for another office," Knott said.
But Cooper maintains he is not using the attorney general's office to springboard to another elected office, such as governor.
"This office is my focus," Cooper said.
Knott's campaign argues he is not the only one to back out of a debate, countering that Cooper declined an invitation to appear at a candidate's forum scheduled on UNC-TV.